I recently spoke to Deonna Purrazzo, 21-year old independent wrestling talent who's had the unique experience of appearing for NXT, TNA and Ring of Honor in her young career. Deonna opened up about her NXT tryout, her experiences working for ECWA and Monster Factory, and much more.
You can hear the interview in the audio players above or below, and read the interview in full below.
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The first thing I wanted to ask before we got into anything else. Do you have any crazy ass Rip Rogers stories?
"Oh, you have no idea (laughs). I've known him for about three years, but the first time I met him in person is probably my favorite. Damian and I picked him up from the airport, and it was just him. We were like 'do you have any bags?' and he said 'no, I'm good.' He had his fanny pack and that's it. I went to shake his hand and he gave me this stink eye and said 'so you think you're tough, huh?' and just walked away! I was like, 'okay! I guess this is how this is going to go!."
I've not met Rip, but he seems among the most colorful personalities in wrestling. I know you've done some training with him. How has that been?
"I'm not directly trained by him but Damian Adams, my trainer, is an OVW alumni. He was there from 2005 to 2008. Everything that was taught in 2012, Damian was my head trainer, and he brought over from developmental and Rip Rogers. I've been able to take classes at OVW and attend Rip's seminars. I feel like that's a misconception, I was never trained by OVW, but I've attended more training with Rip. He's so colorful and so harsh. I thought I was going to die the first time I went an hour. In my head I thought 'If I just die, then it's over and it's fine and I'll be okay,' (laughs). He's doing it to make you a better person. He cares about everyone so much. That's just how it comes out. It's been such a positive influence on my wrestling career. I've been very fortunate to not just have him as a trainer, but as a friend too."
What made you want to become a pro wrestler?
"I knew when I was 9 I wanted to become a pro wrestler. I have a twin, his name is Dominic. All his friends came over and watched wrestling. I've always kind of been around it my whole life, but when I was 9, I saw Stone Cold hit someone with a steel chair and I was hooked instantly. I saw the women do it, Trish and Lita, Jacqueline, Victoria and I knew I wanted to do that."
Women's wrestling has changed a lot lately. You saw that old style and still got in to pro wrestling. What's it like to see that evolution occur?
"I've actually gotten a chance to tell Bayley this, I can still resonate with the stories they told through the NXT Takeovers, and the Four Horsewomen and the revolution. It really inspires me. In part, I guess I have something to do with it, but on WWE's level, stirring up the news, I feel accomplished and empowered. I'm so happy that girls that had the same dream as me have had the chance to see those dreams. Now meeting them and getting to wrestle at the same level as them, my dreams are coming true through them."
You've worked for NXT several times. How did your first NXT appearance come about?
"It was so out of nowhere! I feel like that's the theme of my career so far. I had no idea I was going until 14 hours before I got on a plane. They asked me if I could be in Orlando and I said 'No problem, I'm there.' I had no idea if I was going to wrestle or who it would be against. Another one of my trainers is Shawn Bennett, who is one of the refs down there, so I had some familiar faces and people I knew from being a Rosebud and stuff. It wasn't uncomfortable, it was that weird anticipation of this is where it starts if something happens to me. It was fun to be at Full Sail with NXT."
You were technically in a number one contender's match in that battle royal, and you got to work with virtually everyone. Do you think that will help you down the line?
"I think so. If I get to go back and do more, being put in that situation where I'm the only non-contracted person, it's a free-for-all. It's a battle royal, you're just going after everyone. For them to trust me enough to take care of the people that they're investing so much money in is an honor to me, and it tells me how much they think of me. I think it helped the talent feel more comfortable with me and in the future if I'm booked to wrestle any of those talents one-on-one that I haven't, they can feel a little bit more comfortable."
Just over the past 13 months, wrestling has changed. You appeared for ROH, TNA and NXT over a month. That wouldn't have happened years ago. Do you make an effort to try to make yourself as visible as possible?
"Yeah, I think that's the whole point of being a wrestler – you don't want to limit yourself. I was lucky to be taught that early on. In TNA when I did the Knockouts PPV with Brooke Tessmacher, it was my 8th match in front of a live audience. So my trainers pushed me to make the most of every opportunity. It's been great timing, because so much has changed and we've seen so many things happening that we never thought would happen. Hopefully my experience in working with all three companies in such a short amount of time can open up the doors for other people to do that as well."
Is it true that Brooke Adams had recommended you for that spot on the TNA PPV?
"Yes. Her and Robbie E were dating at the time, and Robbie E was one of the people who helped me train from the beginning. Rob and I are good friends, and he and Damian are best friends. They started together in 2000, and he's been there every step of the way for me. So they had seen me train and do live matches. It was one of those things like 'we need a person, who do you recommend?' Rob and Brooke stuck their necks out for me."
Was it intimidating to be wrestling for TNA in your 8th match?
"Oh, you have no idea (laughs). It was so last minute. I think Rob called me on a Thursday and I flew down ten hours later. Rob called and said 'Hey, you're doing this. Christy Hemme's going to call you.' So I'm like 'what?' Christy Hemme calls me and they set me up to fly me out the next day. I grew up watching her on Raw, and now you're calling me? To be there and be around so many people I grew up watching like the Hardys and Bobby Lashley. It was like a surreal moment for me, very full circle. I grew up wanting to be like these people, and now I'm one of them, and I'm not ready to be one of them. I had basic gear I bought online and kickpads and wrestling sneakers. I wasn't ready to be in that position, but I was very lucky that all the critiques they gave me that day I could use to go back and wow them next time."
You wrestled in over 30 states last year. What's it like to to that so early in your career?
"It's bittersweet. I love wrestling and the traveling I get to do, places I get to see, and people I get to meet. At the same time, I have no life outside of wrestling. I'm so young. I turned 21 last year and I didn't go out for my birthday, I wrestled. I don't go out with my friends now. I've been able to focus so much on wrestling and I think that has really benefited me until now. Traveling has become second nature to me. Damian goes everywhere with me and when Rob can be on the shows we travel together and we make fun out of it. The drives aren't great, but if you can have fun and be with people you care about, it makes it all much better."
You've done several matches with ROH. Do you know if they plan on expanding the women's division, perhaps putting it on TV?
"I have no idea where the direction is going with it. I just know that Delirious is really pushing for us. There's a lot of people in production and the front office who really want to make this worthwhile. I'm not sure in terms of TV, I know there's a DVD in the works. The goal in the match with Mandy and I was to set a platform and impress Sinclair Broadcasting. We did good enough at our job to be able to do that. I'm just glad more women are getting involved. They're pushing so hard and all of us girls are too. I'm ready for us to get on TV, but I don't know."
How would you compare the backstage environments among all those places?
"I am just so fortunate to be everywhere that I am, and making the connections that I am. I'm always in positive spirits and I try to only associate with those people as well. Everywhere I've been is high morale, at least the circles that I'm with. I don't know about the inner workings of any of those three places, so to say any one is better than the other, I'm not in the position to do that and I wouldn't want to do that. As far as the people I've connected with, they seem happy where they're at."
What kind of feedback have you had from those places?
"So far, they seem happy with my work. As you said, I'm very young. I'll be 22 next month. It's a lot of telling me I'm good now but give me time and maybe I'll get better. I think that's the biggest issue with pushing forward anywhere right now, is my age."
Do you have a favorite promotion outside of the big three to work for?
"I really enjoy working with ECWA. I won their women's Super 8 last October. I'm on their show every month, whether it's in New Jersey which is home for me, or down in Delaware. The locker room is so fun and Damian is with me, the rides are easy, and they're bringing in opponents that I've never faced before. It presents a challenge for me to get to work with someone new and to get a good match out of it. That's something I look forward to every single month."
I saw that you also worked for Monster Factory Pro Wrestling, which produces a lot of talent. What's that experience been like for you?
"I went there for the first time for a Rip seminar. We went down and did the seminar, and Damian and I wrestled an hour exhibition match for the seminar, and that's kind of how we go our foot in the door. Danny welcomed us with open arms and was gracious enough to use Damian's trainees at the school and uses us on a monthly basis. I think it really gave me a platform as well, because it's a high profile company. Miranda and I were the only women working there on a consistent basis, so we really got to test out different things, what we were training, help out moveset, and try different things."
Tell me about 'Fluent in Purrazzo.'
"(laughs) The Ferrari logo is my logo, just modified. I was looking up some car mottos. Ferrari doesn't have a company motto that I could find, but each individual dealer can have their own. One I found was 'fluent in Ferrari.' I kind of just took it and it took a life of it's own. 'Fluent in Purazzo,' I really like it.'"
Have you had any talks with ROH, TNA or WWE about signing?
"A little bit with each one individually. I had my WWE tryout, so that's a conversation in itself. Nothing is set in stone. I'm happy doing what I'm doing, being a free agent, working for them when they need it and make a platform. In the last year or so, I think that's what they've been looking for. A lot of the guys that are the big stars aren't homegrown anymore. They want people to go out and have that experience and be the best at it, or they want you from scratch. I'm not a super athlete, so I need to be really good at wrestling. What I would like to do if I'm not going to sign anywhere is to go to Japan and train there, or travel the US and Canada, Puerto Rico. I want to be the best wrestler I can be and right now that's my main goal."
What was that NXT tryout like for you?
"I was so nervous going in. I feel like I was in a weird position. I had wrestled for them six times before my tryout, so I didn't know what else they wanted to see from me. It was really hard. As a wrestler, and I think it's something other wrestlers relate to, we're so grateful to be in that position that we don't want to be disrespectful to anyone. We're quiet and observing and want to learn everything possible from these world-renowned trainers. But they're like 'show us personality!' That was the hardest thing for me. The drills and rolls are something anyone mentally can get through, it was more that I have to show you who I am outside of wrestling and that's the hardest part for me."
"I had so much fun and gained such a respect for the athletes that come into wrestling having no prior experience. The bodybuilders and the figure competitors – people are asked to take a flip bump without doing a forward roll before. If you ask me to do a flip bump – that's easy, I can do that in my sleep! I've been doing that four days a week for three years. To ask someone on their first day, I thought 'Oh my God, I would be terrified.' For them to be able to jump right in and do what we do and try to do it as well, I gained a lot of respect for them.
WWE brought you back for a taping. Did you see that as a good sign?
"Yeah, I thought that was a really great sign. I don't know what the future holds with them, but I know that they've been happy with what I've been able to do. I'm really fortunate to be able to do it, and if they want me back, I'll be there."
You mentioned wanting to go to Japan or Puerto Rico. Are there any particular places you'd like to work?
"I would love to work with Stardom. A lot of my friends have been able to go and do tours. I'm friends with Chelsea Green, who was just over there."
What other upcoming projects do you have?
"My scheduled for my independent bookings is crazy. I'm trying really hard to reach this goal that I set of a road to 100. I want to wrestle at least 100 matches this year. Hopefully I can exceed that. Last year I wrestled 97. Damian and I just have a packed schedule. We'll be doing OVW TV at the end of June."
What other goals do you have in wrestling?
"That's the biggest one I have, and I keep record of it. I have a book with all of the matches I've had. Opponents, the finish, all of that. I try to keep track of that. It's a goal of mine to always know what I've done in my career. I try to set attainable goals. I'd love to go to Japan, maybe Mexico and Puerto Rico. I don't want to set in my mind that it's going to happen, because if it doesn't, I don't want to get upset. I've been able to do so much, so if I don't get to do one of those things I want to stay positive like 'look what you have done. The 100 matches and the Japan tour is really what I'm pushing for."
Tell the fans where they can follow you on social media.
"Yeah! Twitter is the best way, because I'm on it at all times. You can find me at @DeonnaPurrazzo on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Thank you guys so much for your support and for being 'Fluent in Purazzo!.'